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Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 10.40.43 PMThere are some classics in life that should not be remade, like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, or Philadelphia Story.  Then again, the lessons of Star Trek have shown us, when well done, a re-make, or sequel can be extremely well done.  The moment I heard that they were re-making Cosmos, I’ve been waiting for it.  Like the anemic attempts to re-make Bonanza, they should have left well enough alone and simply transferred it to HD, the way the Star Trek: The Original Series was updated.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a dogmatic skeptic.  There’s nothing wrong with being a skeptic.  There is a problem, though with being a dogmatic skeptic.  He’s so much of a skeptic that he has made a huge mistake with his first anti-Christian attack.

“...Giordano Bruno lived in a time when there was no such thing as the separation of church and state, or the notion that freedom of speech was a sacred right of every individual. Expressing an idea that didn’t conform to traditional belief could land you in deep trouble. Recklessly, Bruno returned to Italy. Maybe he was homesick, but still he must have known that his homeland was one of the most dangerous places in Europe he could possibly go. The Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the Inquisition, and its sole purpose was to investigate and torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs. It wasn’t long before Bruno fell into the clutches of the thought police….”

What has disappointed me the most was Tyson’s very poor choice of Giordano Bruno as the poster child for intolerance, bigoted Christians, the evil of the Inquisition, and why Christians don’t allow science.  Going back, directly, to my first edition copy of Cosmos, Bruno is listed 5 times in the index.  One of those is in reference to a crater on the moon, named after him. I would say there are 8 lines, max about him.  Sagan considered him a victim of the times, but said little more about him.  There was probably a good reason for this.

“...19th and early 20th century portrayals of Bruno often focus on his role as a ‘martyr’ for free thought, or intellectual freedom. In this regard McIntyre, J. L., Giordano Bruno: Mystic Martyr, London, 1903 is one representative example among the many available. He is portrayed by some as a martyr for science (e.g. Griggs, E.H., Great Leaders in Human Progress, Ayer Publishing, 1969, Ch. 9 “Giordano Bruno, The Martyr of Science”). Saiber notes: Kepler admitted to accepting Bruno’s theory of infinite worlds (but not an infinite universe); Leibniz drew from Bruno’s monadology, and Spinoza from Bruno’s ideas of an infinite, pantheistic universe. In 1926, in Sydney, Australia, the Theosophical Society chose 2GB (2 for the State, New South Wales, G for Giordano and B for Bruno) as its call sign as a tribute to Bruno. In 1960 Soviet astronomers named a crater of the moon after Bruno. Also in 1960, the Dutch astronomers Cornelius Johannes van Houten and Ingrid van Houten-Groeneveld discovered an asteroid which they subsequently designated 5148, a permutation of Bruno’s birth year (Saiber 2005: 43-45). However, today, many feel that any characterization of Bruno’s thought as ‘scientific’ (and hence any attempt to position him as a martyr for ‘science’) is hard to accept. e.g. “Ever since Domenico Berti revived him as the hero who died rather than renounce his scientific conviction of the truth of the Copernican theory, the martyr for modern science, the philosopher who broke with medieval Aristotelianism and ushered in the modern world, Bruno has been in a false position. The popular view of Bruno is still roughly as just stated. If I have not finally proved its falsity, I have written this book in vain” Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964, p450; see also: Adam Frank, The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate, University of California Press, 2009, p24…”

Just a few minutes of research leads one to conclude that Tyson, with his extreme anti-religious bias, truly screwed it when it came to the use of Giordano Bruno.  In modern terms, Bruno was a bust-head.  Evidently he was a very real jerk, who was willing to compromise just about anything to prove a point. Tyson recently told science deniers that you don’t ‘cherry pick‘ science.  Aside from the fact that even the best scientists to it, I would like to remind him, that when one does the same thing with history, to prove a scientific fact, you get yourself backed into a corner.  Like Thomas McDonald wrote:

“...God, I really hate it when historical illiterates try to read church history through a modernist lens. Let’s time travel back to the great universities of the 16th century and ask those people if there is “freedom of thought”? Naturally, they’d have no idea what you mean. Of course they’re free to think, and debate, and write. That they shared a set of fundamental truths is seen as no barrier to that debate, but the ground upon which it takes place….”

Bruno was a jerk.  McDonald describes him as a disturbed jerk.  Tyson never bothered discussing the fact that the finest observatory and the top scientific research in the Western world, at that time, was being conducted via the Vatican and the Church.  He never bothered with the fact that Bruno barely escaped the Calvinists without being part of an auto-da-fé.  He was an equal opportunity bust-head who couldn’t get along with anyone.  He was ex-communicated by both the Lutherans and Calvinists.  He pandered to Phillip Sydney and Queen Elizabeth so he could stay in England, until he wore out his welcome, there.

“…“Unless you make yourself equal to God, you cannot understand God: for the like is not intelligible save to the like. Make yourself grow to a greatness beyond measure, by a bound free yourself from the body; raise yourself above all time, become Eternity; then you will understand God. Believe that nothing is impossible for you, think yourself immortal and capable of understanding all, all arts, all sciences, the nature of every living being. Mount higher than the highest height; descend lower than the lowest depth. Draw into yourself all sensations of everything created, fire and water, dry and moist, imagining that you are everywhere, on earth, in the sea, in the sky, that you are not yet born, in the maternal womb, adolescent, old, dead, beyond death. If you embrace in your thought all things at once, times, places, substances, qualities, quantities, you may understand God.” ― Giordano Bruno

As McDonald points out, Bruno was not much of a scientist. In fact, if you go back to examine his life, and do any research into the occult, astrology, and magic.  He was considered a major practitioner of talismanic image magic, and delved into the medieval Arabic astrological images.   Any use he had of astronomy was NOT to further science but to enable his practice of magic.  Today, if he were doing ‘science’, the great irony is someone like Neil Tyson would have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with him.  Oh, he would be popular on Coast to Coast, but we’d consider him a crack-pot.  Just looking at a few of his writings, today available, is enough to tell you that he was on a collision course with the Church.

“…A number of Bruno’s writings (most in Latin) are now available at the Twilit Grotto — Esoteric Archives, including De Umbris Idearum (“The Shadow of Ideas”), Ars Memoriae (“Art of Memory”), De Gli Eroici Furori (“The Heroic Frenzies”), Cantus Circaeus (“Incantations of Circe”), De Magia,  Theses De Magia, Magia Mathematica and De Vinculiss in Genere.  http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/bruno.html…”

Every once in awhile, Bruno would make a statement that sounds good, to us, today.  He made a few statements like this which have endeared him to those who think they know something about the history of science and the history of astronomy.

“…“In space there are countless constellations, suns and planets; we see only the suns because they give light; the planets remain invisible, for they are small and dark. There are also numberless earths circling around their suns…” ― Giordano Bruno, Despre infinit univers si lumi

Giordano Bruno died a horrible death.

“...Bruno continued his Venetian defensive strategy, which consisted in bowing to the Church’s dogmatic teachings, while trying to preserve the basis of his philosophy. In particular Bruno held firm to his belief in the plurality of worlds, although he was admonished to abandon it. His trial was overseen by the Inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine, who demanded a full recantation, which Bruno eventually refused. On January 20, 1600, Pope Clement VIII declared Bruno a heretic and the Inquisition issued a sentence of death. According to the correspondence of Gaspar Schopp of Breslau, he is said to have made a threatening gesture towards his judges and to have replied:

“Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam (Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it).” He was turned over to the secular authorities and, on February 17, 1600 in the Campo de’ Fiori, a central Roman market square, “his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words” he was burned at the stake. His ashes were dumped into the Tiber river. All of Bruno’s works were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1603. Inquisition cardinals who judged Giordano Bruno were: Cardinal Bellarmino (Bellarmine), Cardinal Madruzzo (Madruzzi), Cardinal Camillo Borghese (later Pope Paul V), Domenico Cardinal Pinelli, Pompeio Cardinal Arrigoni, Cardinal Sfondrati, Pedro Cardinal De Deza Manuel, Cardinal Santorio (Archbishop of Santa Severina, Cardinal-Bishop of Palestrina)…”

What is ignored is the fact that Bruno was on trial for:

  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus;
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass;
  • claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity;
  • believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes;
  • dealing in magics and divination.

“…Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc….”

This is where Tyson’s script writers failed him.  They allowed him to ‘cherry-pick’ history and basically come out looking rather foolish.  It doesn’t matter how the atheist world gathers around him, crying foul.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I detest more than fake ‘Christians’ who lie, cheat, and manipulate to prove how creationism is correct and evolution is false science.

I don’t like people who manipulate and use history to their advantage, while being intellectually dishonest about the process. I fell like, in his choice of Bruno, Tyson has been terribly intellectually dishonest.  One could accuse the late, very great Carl Sagan of a few things, but never of being intellectually dishonest.  He had an amazing capacity to want to learn, and not just about science.

Carl Sagan inspired a generation.  Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of those who was inspired by him.  His tribute to Sagan left me in tears.  I feel like the man has been drawn into the insanity of the far right and their ludicrous anti-science Luddite mentality.

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